Mother Nature delays Davenport’s project
Chris Davenport has made the preparations for his run at history. Basalt photographer Tomas Zuccareno is waiting for his call. Documentary filmmaker Ben Galland is primed to capture footage. The project’s web site, http://www.skithe14ers.com, is collecting e-mail addresses from those eager to chart the Snowmass skier’s progress as he attempts to climb and ski all of Colorado’s mountains over 14,000 feet.But three weeks into a month in which Davenport had planned to cross five to seven peaks off his list of 54, the project has yet to start. The one variable Davenport targeted as his greatest obstacle is proving to be just that.
“I knew the weather was going to be my biggest challenge,” Davenport said Thursday. “We’re playing the waiting game, waiting for the weather to stabilize. I was hoping to start on Jan. 1, but it’s been snowing and snowing. I knew that was part of the deal.” The slow start hasn’t dampened Davenport’s spirits. He has stayed busy, doing photo shoots on area mountains and taking a week-long vacation with wife, Jesse, in Lake Louise, Alberta. They left sons Topher and Stian at home. Thursday he was making turns through nearly a foot of fresh powder at Highlands. Earlier in the week he hit the Ajax backcountry with friends. The group veered left at the top of Ruthie’s lift and dropped into Keno Chute; they wound up on Castle Creek Road.”There’s a good vibe in the valley,” Davenport said. “You can almost measure the spirit of the local people by how much snow is on the hill. It’s a funny way to measure life.”
Davenport has been “married” to the national weather service in recent weeks, charting fronts online. He is constantly tracking snow depth measurements through Snotell. On the first day the weather clears, Davenport plans to take a plane ride throughout the state to look at the condition of the peaks.If the weather cooperates, Davenport will tackle a few peaks before he is due to provide color commentary for ESPN’s coverage of Winter X Games Ten at Buttermilk, which kicks off Thursday. The plan is to head to Summit County to climb and ski Mount Lincoln, Quandary Peak and Mount Bierstadt.Now is not the time to panic, Davenport said.”If we get to the end of February and I’ve only skied a couple, I’ll start to worry,” Davenport said. “I need to stay positive. The silver lining is that it is snowing, so there will be a longer spring for skiing.”
Davenport acknowledges that he will have to “pick up the pace,” and seize every available opportunity that presents itself. The success or failure of the project could hinge on the conditions of the peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the New Mexico border, where the steep peaks Little Bear, Blanca and Ellingwood loom. The area has suffered from a lack of snowfall so far this winter. If he is to succeed, Davenport will join Carbondale’s Lou Dawson as the only men to ski all 54 peaks. Dawson’s conquest took 13 years. Jason Ivanic skied all the fourteeners, but one – Culebra Peak – during the 2003-04 season. To date, Davenport has climbed 34 of the peaks, but skied just 12.”I’m not disheartened,” Davenport said. “I know it’s snowing, and the most important time is April, May and June.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Aspen Skiing Co. will delay the opening of Aspen Highlands until Dec. 18 due to lack of a base and scant snow in the forecast.